Following the sacking of Francesco Guidolin, former U.S. manager Bob Bradley will take over at Swansea City. The historic move breaks a glass ceiling of sorts: Bradley is the first American to manage a club in one of Europe's big leagues.
While this is a significant moment for Bradley and U.S. football in general, the move was not a complete surprise. During the summer, an ownership group headed by Jason Levien and Steve Kapla, both Americans, took over at Swansea. Prior to Saturday's match against Liverpool, now-ex-manager Francesco Guidolin speculated that he might lose his job should the Swans fail to win. His team went up 1-0 in the first half and had plenty of chances to add to their lead, but were eventually undone by a second-half Liverpool comeback.
Critics might still knock the move as some kind of national nepotism, and Bradley's nationality surely played a role, but not in the way many might suspect. The feeling among those who have followed Bradley's career is that he has deserved this kind of opportunity for some time. He's had success everywhere he's managed: first at university side Princeton; then in MLS, where he won two cups and one championship; then with the U.S. and Egyptian national sides; with Stabæk, in Norway; and most recently at Le Havre, in the French second division. Like Swansea, Le Havre are owned by an American.
Based on his resume, Bradley deserves his chance. Where his nationality helped him is in Swansea's ability to up its profile in the United States. Today, interest in football in the United States is at an all-time high. American television channels broadcast more of the sport than anywhere in the world. With an American at the helm, Swansea now give American fans a reason to watch their games and buy shirts that they previously didn't have.
In the U.S., fans have viewed Bradley's European career, and his failure to get a chance as a top-flight coach in a top league, as evidence of European bias against Americans. The pressure will be on the 58-year-old to prove any bias wrong, and show Europe that the United States is producing not just young talent like Christian Pulisic, but great football minds as well.
The Swans are currently 17th in the Premier League, with four points and a goal difference of minus six. Bradley's first match is away to Arsenal on October 15, following the international break.
Bradley's success isn't guaranteed, but one thing is for sure: Americans will wake up early and watch.